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by Tom Kenny

On this day seventy years ago, June 1st 1953, Scoil Íde opened for the first time. In 1952, the Sisters of Jesus and Mary purchased Allen’s Hotel on Dalysfort Road which had been run by John and Angela Allen. It had at one time been known as Daly’s Fort House, a high-class hotel run by a Mrs. Galbraith. She sold it to a Mr. Miller of Persse’s Distillers who used it as a private house and he sold it on to the Allens. Many will remember it as the place where Bruce Woodcock, the English Heavyweight champion, trained for his famous fight with Máirtín Thornton.

The Sisters converted the building into a school. Two of their congregation, Mother Mary Immaculata and Sister Celine, were given the job of setting it up. They lived in Spires House in Shantalla and every morning, Professor McKenna would give them a lift to Taylors Hill and they would walk from there, across the fields to the school where they were joined by teacher Miss Celia Burke.

They started with 40 pupils, most of whom came from the surrounding area. As the houses of Ardnamara were being built at the time, the local population was growing rapidly and this soon reflected itself in student numbers. The rolls grew quickly and the building became too small so it was decided to demolish it and replace it with a brand new school.

When the builders moved in, the nuns had to move out so a new location had to be found for classes. The directors of Seapoint offered them the use of the ground floor restaurant which for a time became a giant classroom. As Easter approached and the restaurant was preparing to open for the tourist season, the school was once again on the move, this time up the road to the Hangar Ballroom. Dances went on as normal there and would finish about 1am. A few hours later, the pupils would troop in to their classes. The Hangar was situated in the middle of Salthill Park, so, on fine days, classes would be formed on the grassy slopes and the children would recite their lessons to the ‘sounds of bird songs and the myriad small sounds that make audible a spring day in a tree-fringed garden’. And of course, there was all that parkland to play games on. The kids loved it.

It was soon back to normal classrooms. On July 2nd, 1962, the Minister for Education, Dr. Patrick Hillery opened the new Scoil Íde. It could accommodate 450 pupils, included an auditorium that could seat 300 people, ten classrooms as well as some rooms catering for domestic science classes. It was designed by Simon Kelly and built by Malachy Burke.

That year a secondary top was opened. This was a special separate class to prepare students for secondary education, and three years later, the sisters were able to transfer these groups as a secondary school to a house named Salerno on Revagh Road in Rockbarton. This building quickly became too small and so the Sisters built a brand new secondary school on Threadneedle Road, which because of its success, has had a number of extensions added on since.

From those little acorns planted seventy years ago, the Sisters of Jesus and Mary have overseen the growth of these two schools into major educational facilities that have educated thousands and had a profound effect on the quality of life in Galway. Their schools and what they represent are a monument to the vision, hard work and commitment of those Sisters. We are in their debt.

So, to celebrate his notable anniversary of the opening of Scoil Íde, we have two photographs for you today. The first is of a group being prepared for the Liturgical Festival in May, 1957. They are, front row; Jim Horan, Conor Morris, David Colgan and Niall Howard. Second row; Róisín Gallagher, Anne Conneely, Margaret Fagan, Mary Walsh, Mary F. Conneely, Anne Roche, Eleanor Quinlan, Nuala McLoughlin, Sally Lardner, Geraldine O’Beirne, Yvonne O’Connor, Sheila McCarthy, Mary Lee, Terri McLoughlin. Back row; Celia Burke Claffey (teacher) Aileen Boland, Eleanor Craughwell, Aoife Morris, Connie Fannon, Mary Carroll, Mary Mannion, Anne McDonagh, Carmel Fegan, Bernie Dunne.

Our second image was taken in 1960/61 when the school was based in the Hangar Ballroom and shows the school choir practising on the slopes of Salthill Park.

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